If DH and I remain employed at our current jobs for the next ~6 years (something that is not incredibly likely given DH’s job situation), then we will not qualify for financial aid at most schools. (IIRC, we’ll be in the phase-out range for Harvard and Princeton and may be able to move money around to get some aid there.) If one of us loses a job, then DC1 will qualify for about ~10K/year in aid at many private schools, which isn’t that much given sticker prices (although on just one income,
hiding moving money around will have a larger effect).
We currently (barring weird changes in the stock market between the writing of this post and its posting) have around 98K in DC1’s college account. That’s $500/mo for the last 10 years invested in Vanguard. That’s enough to go to our local flagship schools for 4-5 years if we stop saving now.
And that really sounds like a lot. But in the world of private schools it isn’t.
It’s hard to tell what DC1 will want to do in 6-10 years, but current indications are that computer science or some form of electrical engineering will be involved. Zie might want to go to MIT or Harvey Mudd or Stanford (and zie might get in– it is hard to say). These schools are not cheap, and at >55K/year in total costs (and rising), there’s not enough in the 529s to pay for even two years of school. We have another $170K in taxable stocks (that’s from the 50K we had in 2005 and the leftover money from leave we just put into the market) that presumably we would use for the remainder. However, we will be taxed on that remainder, so it might make sense to start saving *more* in the 529 vehicle while we still have six years for earnings to accrue.
Indeed, the simple saving for college calculator suggests that we would need to more than double our monthly contribution for MIT and almost triple it for Harvey Mudd.
If I drop DH’s income, then the college calculator suggests we should start putting away $638/mo, which is still more than the $500 that is currently going towards college.
Both Harvey Mudd and MIT have 5-year BS/MS programs that are a good deal. DC1 is so young– maybe we should be open to funding some graduate school. It is also true that we have two children, and by the time DC2 is ready for college, we should know how much DC1’s experience ended up costing, so we’d be able to move some money over. As of this typing, DC2 has $33K in hir 529 plan. We’re on an oversaving path for hir for state school (the calculator recommends cutting back to ~300/mo), but would need to put away more for the average private school– for my alma mater, for example, zie would need more than double what we’re putting away (same for engineering schools, though it’s harder to tell if engineering is likely with a preschooler compared to a 6th grader).
Looking over all my old 529 posts, I usually contemplate putting less money into the 529s. This is the first time I’ve addressed putting more money there. I’ve been assuming we wouldn’t pay for any graduate school and have been worried about the risk of over-saving. But with only 6 years left before college, I think it is unlikely I’ll end up moving to work for a university that pays even part of school tuition. And college costs have been increasing, as has our net worth. Maybe it makes sense to get more tax advantage, especially given that in 6 years taxes may have to go way up (or inflation may be sky rocketing). It’s hard to say. Not to mention that $500/month isn’t worth what it was 10 years ago.
And we’re no longer paying $1200/mo in principal and interest on a mortgage. If DH doesn’t lose his job, that money has to go somewhere.
Under what circumstances would we regret putting more money in the 529s? 1. If we move to the bay area for DH’s job and want to buy a house. That scenario suggests needing loans for private school and DC1 being on hir own for graduate school. 2. If for whatever reason neither DC1 nor DC2 end up using the money (ex. tragedy, one or both of the DCs becoming successful entrepreneurs, both DCs deciding they prefer much cheaper college options). 3. The world goes to heck and we have to leave the country (in which case money in the 529s will be very low on our list of regrets).
Ugh, I keep going back and forth on this. I could increase our monthly contribution to be more in line with what the simple calculator thinks we should be contributing, and then we could cut if off if DH loses his job. We could put in a lump sum (though dollar-cost averaging seems much less risky given the current uncertain political environment). I could split the difference and put in, say $750/month per child instead of either $500 or $1000 (which is about what we would need if I kept my job and DH stopped bringing money in entirely). Or we could just keep doing what we’re doing, which is usually the easiest thing to do.
*note for newer readers: We are already maxing out our easy retirement options (required contribution, one 401K, one 403b, one 457) and will pay off our house very soon. So don’t worry about our retirement savings or debt loads!
What are you doing in terms of college savings? How do you decide to change what you’re doing?